Admit it. Just admit it. You never liked the Mars Volta. Or Architecture in Helsinki, Theophilus London or Of Montreal, for that matter. All the T-shirts purchased and concerts idly attended to seem cool have been a big waste of time and money. And the bigger agony is — once the realization hits — you have an iPod full of meaningless songs and nothing to replace them with, since you haven’t spent any time developing your true musical tastes.
Luckily, you’re alive in 2011 — during the age of Spotify and Facebook — which are making it a lot easier to reject an endless cycle of conformity. Spotify is an international music-sharing program that was made available to the U.S. this summer, and has now become mainstream via its partnership with Facebook. Spotify is not a music downloading program, rather it allows users to search for a single song and listen to it from their computer multiple times, whenever they choose. When a Facebook user signs up for Spotify, it will ask for permission to display users’ activity (every song they listen to) in Facebook friends’ newsfeeds. The reaction so far is that most users agree to these terms, and thus the music listening process becomes much more transparent than it ever was with iTunes, Pandora, Grooveshark and the like.
Ideally, this partnership works to record companies’ advantage, since it extends consumer discussion about music to a whole new level, which could lead to more outside music purchases. But even more so, it’s helped music enthusiasts discover new music for free and get in touch with their own musical identities. The knowledge that everyone can see what a person is listening to eliminates any pretense of cool ennui they might have previously entertained. Spotify, in one sense, could be the very thing to make music posers shed their shroud of faux musical taste and give in to some real listening. This could become an era of “Yes I do ONLY listen to Sublime. What of it?”
When everyone is connected to Spotify, we can see what our friends actually listen to, which is an honest and utterly refreshing experience. Friends might find they like the same music when it pops up on Spotify, or be introduced to a new song on their newsfeed, which is made even easier by the physical record kept by Facebook’s history. This is far less intimidating than previously, where an unknown band might be brought up in conversation and then forgotten. That feeling of inadequacy can be easily eliminated by a few minutes spent on Spotify.
Of course, there are those for whom the problem will only be amplified by Spotify and Facebook. They could choose to be super strategic, opting only to play songs on Spotify they think others will approve of. To each his own, but that borders on neurotic, like untagging photos has become for some people. It’s always a possibility, but I do not foresee that being the norm.
Plus, Spotify is such a useful tool that it would be a shame to censor oneself, and thereby limit its functionality. The thing that makes it unique from Pandora and Grooveshark is that it is not practical for constant music listening, but it is one of the most effective programs out there to instantly find, within its vast music library, an individual song in full; what you really want to listen to at that moment. I find it hard to imagine very many people letting that unique technology go to waste. Even if it means all their friends will see they’ve been listening to the “Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring” soundtrack on a loop for eight days, or explaining to your parents why you’ve been listening to Eminem’s “Ass Like That.”
So, finally, what is popular is also honest. Facebook friends ought to be friends enough that they can accept your music choices. There’s a lot of good stuff out there, and nothing could help your street cred more than lending someone an earful of your (genuine) musical tastes.